Stakeholders in the maritime sector are worried about the inability of local operators to participate in the shipping sector.
The stakeholders, who spoke in separate interviews with our correspondent, are worried that this is happening despite the opportunities in the industry.
Shipping in Nigeria is reported to be a $7bn industry but it is mostly dominated by foreign carriers.
Stakeholders have reasoned that it was not fair for Nigeria to be unable to participate in the lifting of its own crude, or to have it lifted on Free On Board terms, instead of Cost Freight and Insurance terms that would have been more beneficial to the country.
The former Chairman, Nigerian Shipowners Forum, Mrs Magaret Orakwusi, blamed the situation on poor funding, saying that local operators needed government’s backing to be able to raise the kind of funds needed to operate in the sector.
Another operator, Ayo Adedoyin, blamed the situation on Nigerians whom he accused of colluding with foreign carriers to serve as a front and act as the owners of the ships.
Adedoyin bashed the Federal Government for neglecting Nigerdock, saying it was a clear indication that the government had no regard for the local shipping sector.
He said, “Nigerians are the ones sabotaging the local content. A Nigerian will tell a foreigner, ‘if you give me $1,000 per vessel every day, I will back you,’
If you own a ship and employ Nigerians as engineers, they will sabotage the business. Where there is no need for maintenance, they will tell you that the ship requires maintenance.”
He added, “The government is also not helping matters. They will issue import license to foreign vessels. For them to sell Nigerdock shows that they have no regard for the shipping industry. Nigerdock is supposed to be built and developed, not privatised.”
Another stakeholder and the Chief Executive Officer of Marine Platforms, Mr Taofik Adegbite, said to be able to operate in the shipping sector, Nigerians had to demonstrate seriousness and transparency.
He confirmed that the industry was capital intensive and some form of government guarantee was needed to be able to acquire assets.
Adegbite said there were foreign agencies that were willing to invest.
He said there had to be a quality assurance to be able to attract foreign finance.
He remarked that the operating environment was equally challenging with piracy and shallow sea depths threatening the survival of local businesses.
While speaking during the Shipowners Association of Nigeria’s annual workshop and dinner, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, Simbi Wabote, said that plans were ongoing to encourage increased participation of local operators in the industry.
He said the board had secured approval to increase the limit of loans for refinancing of maritime assets to $10m from the initial $2m.